When I started practising personal injury law in the early 1980’s, I came across individuals who despite seemingly trivial injuries, were suffering disproportionately high levels of pain and disability. All appeared to be honest, but doctors were unable to find any organic reason for their symptoms.
There was no treatment available, as the cause wasn’t clear. So began my desire to fully understand ‘pain disorders’, now variously described as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, fibromyalgia and somatoform disorders, which involve unexplained symptoms often occurring after injury.
In those days, as doctors were unable to explain the cause of these symptoms in a litigation context, the victim not only had an opponent disputing their honesty, but often their own doctors as well. If the diagnostic mystery continued, a psychological route would often be pursued which was equally unsatisfactory. When told that the problem is “all in your head”, added insult to injury!
In the last 30 years, pain science has advanced massively. There are still lawyers and doctors who will dismiss unusual symptoms, leaving a genuine claimant without proper compensation, but lawyers who are experts in these conditions and who know the best pain specialists, will ensure that the condition is identified and treated.
The main symptom of CPRS is severe, continuous and debilitating pain. This can start in one limb and then spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes, in addition to pain, there can be numbness, or tingling sensations. The pain can be described as stabbing, stinging or burning and it can sometimes flare up dramatically. The skin for some victims can be affected with extreme sensitivity causing intense and worrying pain. All of which, is genuine and physical.
Here at Metcalfes, we have seen many clients with these symptoms. Some have unusual swelling, such as hot and red skin, and unusual changes to the feel of a limb. Sufferers feel vulnerable and miserable, so depression often follows. The experience is bewildering, especially if the condition is treated dismissively.
We have taken over cases for victims whose previous lawyers had little, or no understanding of their condition. They had suffered the disbelief of their own lawyer who was advising settlement of the claim for an undervalue.
These days, many law firms deal with volume injury work, using unqualified staff, who obtain a GP report which does not identify such conditions. Without a specialist lawyer and expert to advise, it is little wonder why these problems are missed. The fixed costs regime for claims under £25,000 means that there is little incentive to look closer at those cases.
A quick settlement should not be attempted where an injury involves a pain condition. Appropriate treatment should be the priority, preferably at the defendant’s expense. The Judicial College Guidelines for the assessment of damages payable for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity suggest that damages for severe CRPS can rise to over £60,000. Even in the moderate spectrum of symptoms, compensation of £15,000 to £30,000 plus financial loss is payable.
Ensuring that any settlement covers all aspects of past and future loss is important. Settling a case too early on the assumption that there will be a full recovery is a mistake, as there is no known cure for CRPS. It is estimated that around 85 per cent of those suffering from CRPS will gain some benefit over time, typically a couple of years, but 15 per cent will still suffer.
It takes a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer to deal with these cases and so anyone with an injury claim who believes that they have a pain condition that is not being recognised, should transfer their case to a specialist law firm like Metcalfes. With 30 years of experience, we can identify the problem early and know the specialists to instruct to prepare a report to dismiss allegations of exaggeration or fabrication. Once identified, the best treatment can be sought under the Code of Best Practice for Rehabilitation, funded by the defendants, even if liability is disputed.
Too many people feel they are battling their own lawyers and doctors for a clear diagnosis and understanding of their condition. Coming to Metcalfes is the start on the road to possible recovery and to achieving proper compensation.